When you participate in something for eighteen years, it’s hard to know where to start when summing it up. My previous versions of this post included various achievements I had earned or just a general summary of my career. However, I don’t feel like that really conveys the importance that Irish dance had and continues to have in my life. So instead, I’m going to share some of the biggest lessons that I learned over the years.
Lesson One: If you want something, you have to work for it.
I learned this lesson many times over. When I first started Irish dance, I was really just doing it for fun, and didn’t really realize how competitive the whole world was until I was about ten. But once I got serious about dancing, I realized that I was going to have to work a whole lot harder than I had been. It changed from practicing two hours per week to 8 hours a week, and continued to increase from there. Once I figured out the most effective way to practice, I began to see results. There were times that it was hard to maintain the level of discipline with practice, but I knew that it would be worth it when I achieved my goals.
Lesson Two: You are your biggest enemy.
Even though Irish dance takes a lot of physical strength, it takes even more mental strength. As a teenager, I definitely beat myself mentally before I even stepped onstage. I didn’t get intimidated by other dancers; I just beat myself up for making small mistakes or just not being as good as I eventually wanted to be. It honestly held me back for way too long before I started to push past the mental blocks.
Lesson Three: Win and Lose Graciously
Nobody likes a sore loser, but they also don’t like a sore winner. I certainly lost more times than I won throughout my career, and even though I preferred to win, I also learned to recognize that as long as I did my part and danced well, the results were out of my hands. I also know that you are more likely to befriend competitors if you respect their abilities and show genuine joy for them when they succeed, even if it’s over you.
Lesson Four: Dance friends are some of the best friends you’ll ever have
I’ve met some pretty incredible people during my time as a dancer, both within my own school and at competitions. These women have inspired me, encouraged me, and become life-long friends over the years. It’s been amazing getting to meet these women from all over the country and watch their careers within and outside of the dance world. Some of my most treasured moments are getting to be in these pictures with them. They meant more to me than any of my achievements.
Lesson Five: Never take people in your life for granted
I’ve learned this lesson within the dance world and also in my life outside of dance. One of my dance partners and a long-time friend died very suddenly when we were in college. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to go through in my entire life, and it took me quite a while to move past it. I will never forget who she was, and will cherish the time we spent together while she was here. So even though you have to be focused on dance while you’re in class, be a support network for your classmates outside of the studio.
Lesson Six: Your teachers sacrifice more than you can imagine.
Being a dance teacher is not easy. All of the dance teachers I’ve had have made sacrifices to be able to teach us. My first dance teachers – Judy and PJ McCafferty – drove six hours twice a week to be able to teach us. There was never a complaint about the sacrifice, so it was easy to forget that they couldn’t just pop over to the studio at any given time. They put in the time, and therefore I made sure I put in the time when they were in town. My new dance teachers – Ana Ayala-Barker and Alyssa Graves – work regular day jobs, have young families and significant others, and run other side businesses, all while teaching dance class 3-4 days a week. And again, they never complain. They are such an amazing example of dedication and self-discipline, and I will always look up to them.
Lesson Six: Irish dance will always be a part of me
Even though I have now stopped competing probably forever, I will always love to dance, and hope to keep messing about with rhythms and such, and keep up with the dance world. One day I hope to have my own children participate in this amazing art form, so they can learn these same lessons, and become a more enriched person because of them.
These are just some of the lessons that I learned throughout my time as a dancer. Please comment below what your favorite things are about dance, and if you happen to live in the area and want to pick up the sport, just look up Rince Arkansas! And if you’d like me to post some more about the world of Irish dance, please let me know! Thanks for reading!